University of Kentucky May Be Part of Woeful Trend of Failing to Hold Doctors Accountable

August 22, 2013

USA Today investigation found a disturbing lack of accountability for doctors nationwide, and Kentucky is likely no exception. The investigation found that state medical boards allow doctors to keep practicing medicine even after findings of serious misconduct. From 2001 to 2011, as many as 6,000 doctors had clinical privileges restricted or were barred from practicing in certain hospitals, but retained unblemished licenses. Of the 800 doctors with the most malpractice actions, fewer than one in five faced license suspension or restriction.

operation-1389104-m.jpgThe University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center may be among those who should take a closer look. One recent article noted that although the University of Kentucky ranks high on the list of U.S. News and World Report, it has fared badly on other lists related to patient care. Consumer Reports gave Chandler Medical Center just a 47 out of 100 for patient safety, as well as low marks for surgical complications. Likewise, the Leapfrog Group, a hospital safety group, gave Chandler Medical Center a "C" compared to the higher grades it gave other area hospitals, like St. Joseph East.

One reason for Chandler Medical Center's failings is its policy of nondisclosure. For instance, it recently filed a lawsuit against a medical reporter who submitted an open records request. If no one on the outside knows how serious its problems are, no one can hold it sufficiently accountable. The situation is such that one family was advised to get treatment at the University of Michigan, due to its policy of full disclosure and thus its superior care. Chandler Medical Center's lack of disclosure may be traced to decisions by the hospital's board of trustees, rather than federal privacy laws or other claims.

There is no telling when or if the board of trustees will make any changes, but some recommended changes include tying administrative bonuses to achieving safety goals, trustees being trained by an outside organization rather than other University of Kentucky employees, and having the person in charge of quality assurance report directly to the board of trustees.

Nondisclosure policies like these are a prime reason that so many people hire a Kentucky medical malpractice attorney and file a malpractice lawsuit. If mistakes are never brought to light, and if the ones who make the mistakes are never removed or otherwise held accountable, medical mistakes will continue to take place. These mistakes can range from supplying the wrong type of medication to removing the wrong limb in an amputation. They may be "mistakes," but they can change the lives of those who receive them.

When people file medical malpractice lawsuits, they make similar arguments to those in other tort lawsuits. The typical argument to succeed is that the medical staff involved had a duty to their patients to meet a certain standard of care; the medical staff breached that duty through certain conduct; as a direct or proximate cause of the breach, there was an injury; and the injury resulted in damage. Those filing medical malpractice lawsuits will usually seek general and special "damages," or a monetary award, to pay for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more.

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